Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Burning Man 29: Epiphany

I'd been carrying around a bag full of drugs all week, and by Saturday night Hunter Thompson would have been proud--not least by the fact that not only had I forgotten where most of them had come from, but also what they were.

There was even a bud of marijuana that had broken up into fragments, and those fragments had then been coated with a dusting of pill residue, crumbled up acid paper, and probably the leakings of a tiny bag of crystal meth that some genuinely degenerate guy had given me for no explicit reason. There was also a hit of ecstasy that someone had given me.

Come to think of it, all the acid was in there getting coated with shit, too. Maybe that's why it retained most of its potency.

Anyway, things were in complete chaos from sundown onward. Groups of people came and went; there was a side trip to the Thunderdome to see Todd and Dan sort of duke it out with foam rubber sticks, which was also sort of a proxy battle between the Todd faction of Ishkabibble and the Josh faction of Ishkabibble, the irony of course being that Dan wasn't even IN Ishkabibble. I missed that whole side affair, although I took great care to warn folks that Dan was pretty worn down, and harbors a huge amount of rage that could conceivably come out if he got whacked by Todd with a hundred cheering desert rats looking on. Turns out that didn't happen, but I certainly wasn't going to be around if it did. I had my own cats to skin.

Thus far I've tried to pare down the narrative, but it's getting harder to do as I remember more and more of what was going on. And Saturday afternoon was a weird time, and maybe by giving you an aside, you'll have a better grasp of just what goes on out there, when nobody's looking.

Todd had introduced me to a couple of very lovely young ladies named Vardit and Maya. They were (are) sweethearts, but I realized shortly after meeting them that I was not of their world. Not to say we didn't talk or hang out, but...well, it's hard to say what didn't click exactly...

Regardless, Saturday afternoon Vardit and I spent some quality time walking up and down the Esplanade, seeing the sights and trying to communicate. Vardit has a lovely voice, but it's very soft, and being an uncultured ruffian I had trouble with her (mild) accent. Oh yes, and I was also drunk. I'm not sure how this happened, but it most certainly did. I wasn't really aware of this until we came upon some sort of live bluegrass/C&W combo playing live, with a deserted dancefloor.

A warning I'm sure you guys think I'm silly for even bothering to type: If you don't know how to two step, DO NOT attempt to teach someone who's a foot shorter than you how to do it, especially while drunk and excited. I stepped on that poor girl's feet at least four times, and probably more than that. She we still had a really good time, I reckon.

So, ladies: stay away from me if you want to two step. I've been shown a few times, but I've never been too inclined to pick it up for real, and...well...just don't.

Back at camp, I loaded up on LSD, just to start the night out, and also to cut into the big stash that I had left. I also wasn't sure how strong this stuff was still going to be (dusting of other drugs notwithstanding), so I wanted to give myself plenty of time to pursue other avenues if that didn't work out.

Somehow I found myself keeping company with Carrie (remember her?), who reminded me that I had a couple of big fat hits of (e) in my bag. We each took one, and I promptly forgot about it.

It was madness. You could feel the sand running out of the hourglass, as the light faded from the horizon and the temperature dropped. We cobbled together my hair as best we could, secured camp, made completely fruitless plans to meet at various places, and split.

Carrie and I found ourselves visiting the porta-potties. The bastards had moved (or re-moved) the ones so conveniently located just out of smelling distance of our camp, so we had to actually walk to the rapidly deteriorating ones a few blocks away.

If I decide to tell the Laughing Volkswagen story (and I don't see how I'm going to be able to avoid it), it's important to note that the potties Carrie and I visited were placed in a horseshoe shape. Don't let that keep you up at night, though. It's for the next post, if not the one after that.

Anyway, Carrie and I were wandering around after 'doing our business,' and decided to take a slightly different way home. Not a longer one, per se, but different. The quilt I keep mentioning had pretty much attached itself to me like a remorah at this point, and I recall a pleasant walk of a couple of blocks with her socked up under my arm and blanket like some sort of pink-haired shotgun (know this: remorah quilts don't like girls, which means it's safe for them to be under one). She was warm, and pleasant, and just chatty enough to go well with the sundown. I thought she was perfect. For a moment, I dared to dream (yet again), that it might be....but then, out of nowhere, she looked up at me, and said (again, ladies, take note):

"What do you do in the real world, Jeff Franklin?"

(Except, obviously, that's not my real name. I'm using it as a placeholder, you know. My real name is Robert.)

I don't know what her intentions were. But by asking me about myself, she caused me to become completely flustered and self-aware, because I'm the literal sort, and didn't for a couple of days think that maybe she didn't want a dissertation on what it was I actually did out here in the bad ol' real world, but instead wanted some sort of convenient e-friendly factoid that she could deal with.

But while I completely lost my focus on one level, I was completely at peace, and happy, and in love with everything I could see or feel or hear. I (finally) had a warm, friendly, intelligent girl beside me (very close to me, I felt), the white roads were pulsing with the colors of sundown, and we were about to burn something very big down, with about 25 thousand other motherfuckers. And then, we were going to party like Smoove B on a payday.

I was content. We walked, and talked a bit (I was preoccupied with just what I should tell this vision of womanhood about my life that wouldn't be a lie, per se, but wouldn't cause her to extricate herself from my remorah/blanket, either), and after a few minutes, I realized:

Hey, this is what it's like to be on ecstasy!

It was great. A feeling of contentment, geniality, and happiness, uncut with any sort of harsh chemical feeling, anxiety, or speediness. A mild feeling of anticipation, and an incredibly calming sensitivity to the movement of her shoulders and hips under the blanket, as we walked. I attribute the colors and visuals to the first big spike of LSD I'd previously taken, but I immediately understood that with the advent of ecstasy, I'd opened a completely new realm to explore. Not consciousness expansion, but maybe spirit expansion.

Then, the realization that stopped me in my tracks. Remember how I'd been jealous of that guy all week for his initial experiences with hallucinogens while at Burning Man? Yes?

It struck me then that I had just eaten a hogleg of an MDMA pill, for the very first time in my life, and I was going to be in the midst of this (e) trip when we all (every soul who'd experienced what I experienced for the entire week) gathered out at the Man and burned him to the ground. Every one of my closest friends would be there, and thousands of people that might have been my closest friends had we been placed next to each other way back on Sunday.

Suddenly, in other words, I understood that this poor bastard who'd been off chasing (with good reason, mind you) intellectual stimulation and logical happiness all week couldn't hold a purple lightstick to my impending spirit-meld with the ENTIRE BURNING MAN EVENT.

Petty people will say I'm being petty and one uppish. Fuck them.

I got this very weird visual of the dendrites of my brain catching fire like a line of black powder, sparking and smoking as they tried to fathom the endless train of possibilities that had led me to that specific spot, on that specific drug, with the specific set of outcomes that might come from having met the people I'd met during the past week.

In essence, Constant Reader, my epiphany was that no matter how jaded I was in the realm of blinking lights, breathing curtains, and Psychedelic Windmills, I was still about to enter a whole new realm of awareness: human interaction. What I mean is that all that time I'd spent eyeballing someone over HIS experiences meant simultaneously very little (because, after all, I was a small person to begrudge him that) and very much (because I wouldn't have acheived such an earth-shattering epiphany if I hadn't been so worried about it). Does this make sense? Or am I channeling The Great Sloppy Primal God of Ecstasy?

Never mind.

Back to the narrative: I forgot about everything around me, including all but the very most necessary parts of Carrie (that is to say, what she was talking about, because I loved her and didn't want her to think I wasn't paying attention to her).

Turns out, the whole experience took place in the span of about a block and a half. By the time we arrived back at camp, it was time to go, and by the time I had been spun around half a dozen times by the general disorder of camp, I'd completely lost Carrie. And everyone else.

Because truth be told, folks, I don't remember who I experienced the Burn with that year.

I know Dan was there. I know Robert WASN'T, because of a completely different side project I'd like him to write, but he refuses; Ethan and/or Cosmo may have been there, but I'm not sure. I think I remember one of the Boyscouts, but not the other. That seems weird, though. Todd? Yes, but then again I remember NOT seeing him til we all coalesced back at camp later. I rely on a highly evolved comment system to get his opinion. That, or I'll fly to NYC and beat his UGLY ASS til he posts it.

That's enough for tonight, kids. I don't want to make these posts too long, and I'm on my fourth beer, and well, it seems like as good a place as any to stop. If you haven't noticed, I've been updating this daily, so check in again tomorrow for another round. I'll try and get a lot of this resolved between laundry and packing.



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